Random Health Fact:

Natural Remedies: Anemia

Anemia is a disease in which the red blood cells are not carrying enough oxygen to all the systems of the body. The most common form of this disease is iron-deficiency anemia, and women are much more vulnerable to it as a result of menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth. The red blood cells contain hemoglobin, an iron rich protein which carries the oxygen to all parts of the body. When the red blood cells or Hb, fall below normal, the body is deprived of this precious oxygen and can not function. A person with anemia often feels tired, cold, sluggish and weak.

Is there a cure?

Actually for Iron-deficiency anemia the cure is very simple, eat more iron rich foods or take an iron supplement every day. Women need 15 milligrams (mcg) each day. Those who are post menopausal need slightly less, as do men (~ 10 mcg), and pregnant women need more iron (~30mcg). Seeing as it is very difficult to ingest this much iron through diet alone, an iron supplement is recommended. As with everything, use caution because iron poisoning is the number one cause of accidental death in kids under 6 years of age.

There is also some research that shows a slightly elevated risk of developing heart disease in men and post-menopausal women who have very high iron levels in their blood. A simple blood test can give you an accurate reading, to help determine if your iron levels are within healthy range.

What types of food have natural Iron?

Well for all of you red meat lovers, you will be happy to know red meat is one of the best sources of dietary iron, as is shellfish. If you are a vegetarian, there are many other foods that contain iron, such as, pumpkin, kidney beans, lentils, and cooking foods in cast-iron pans. Mango is also highly recommended for anyone suffering from anemia, not just because of it's iron content, but because it can increase iron absorption from vegetables.

Another important factor in boosting your iron levels is bioavailability. This means how much is available to actually be absorbed and put to use by the body, rather than be passed out as waste. The bioavailability of iron depends on what the source was and what other foods or supplements it is taken with. Meat and shellfish have sources of iron called heme and this is readily available to the body. Pumpkin, beans, or iron found in other plant sources is called nonheme, which is less available. To increase the absorption and availability of these types of iron it is recommended that you pare the iron with Vitamin C. This increases the absorption from about 3 % to about 8-10%, which makes it much it easier to get the iron you need.

In contrast taking supplements of Calcium, or ingesting antacids while eating actually decrease the absorption of iron because they compete for the same binding sites (receptors) on your cells. It is best to wait at least 3 hours before or after taking the calcium or antacids to take iron or iron supplements.

Finally, one other source of iron supplementation is cooking your food in a cast-iron pan. This can actually raise the iron content of the meal by 2-3%.

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